History Among The Highrises
Moiliili Part 2
Although a Hawaiian legend establishes the general location of Moiliili, it provides no clues to the scope of the neighborhood. Where Moiliili begins and ends remains disputable although the Ala Wai Canal and H-1 Freeway are generally accepted as the neighborhood’s makai and mauka boundaries. To the east, Old Waialae Road serves to divide Moiliili from Kaimuki. Western Moiliili abuts the Pawaa neighborhood and includes the McCully and University areas.
The dredging of the Ala Wai Canal and draining of the wetlands that created additional buildable land in Waikiki also changed the landscape of Moiliili. During the first half of the 20th century, Moiliili consisted primarily of farms, single family homes, and shops providing basic commodities and services. Geologically, the area is notable for underground caverns, an underground lake, springs, and a rock quarry active until the late 1940s — the present site of the University of Hawaii’s Lower Campus.
The dominant ethnic groups were Hawaiians and Chinese until the early 1900s when Japan-ese began leaving the plantations and moving into the area. Eventually Moilili would be known as a primarily Japanese community. Buddhist missions and Japanese schools became social centers for the growing population. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, which opened in 1992 on South Bereta-nia Street, houses a permanent exhibit chronicling Japanese history in Hawaii from immigration to present and offers school and group tours. The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce has its office in the building.
Grant Kagimoto has operated his Cane Haul Road graphics studio in Moiliili for 33 years and has served on the board of the Moiliili Community Center for 15 years. He chose the pre-war building at 2842 King Street as the location for his studio primarily because of its convenience.
“Access to the H-1 heading either east or west is right here…you also have a choice of King, Bere-tania, or Kapiolani if the Freeway is crowded. Like many Moilili buildings, ours has a third generation owner. The area still has a nice, small town atmosphere in spite of the highrise development and is more ethnically diverse than in the past. Typical of University communities, Moiliili has a wide range of restaurants from ethnic to fast food to the venerable Willows, organic food markets, and interesting boutiques. One of the most interesting was Glen Grant’s ‘The Haunt’ in the nearly century old Kamada Building. Glen is best known for his ghost tours but he was also a scholar and serious historian. He played a unique role in the cultural life of the community,” Kag-imoto said.
Developer and Realtor Peter Savio also chose Moiliili for his main office because of its central location. “Accessibility is important since we have projects all over the island,” Savio said. “We bought two buildings at 931 University Avenue in 1985, one residential and one commercial, and converted both to condominium. Three years ago, I bought Puck’s Alley from then owner Jimmy Wong and sold it to Kamehameha Schools, which is working on a masterplan for an area that includes the Varsity Theatre site and property along Beretania extending to Isenberg. Five years ago, I bought a building on Kalo Street with 24 four bedroom, two bath units and converted it to student housing – I’m looking to buy additional buildings in the area to fill this need.”
Walter Yim (DR), who developed one of Moliili’s early highrise condominiums, the Hale Kulanui, is marketing a studio apartment in University Villa for $242,000, one of the lowest price points in the area. “This is a good value for a fee simple condo, with an inclusive maintenance fee, assigned parking, a lanai, and upgrades. The unit could be an opportunity for an investor, since studios in this area are in demand as student rentals,” Yim said. At the top of the price range for Moiliili condos is a combined unit with 4,215 square feet in the Courtyards at Punahou on South Beretania. Listed by Judith Jackola (R) of Prudential Locations at $3,500,000 fee simple, the unit comes with five parking stalls and offers numerous luxurious amenities.